Upon hearing the news that the NHL lockout ended, the Arizona State hockey team decided to give away as much free hockey as it could this weekend.
After winning in shootout fashion on Thursday and Friday night, the Sun Devils took to the ice on Saturday night determined to create some separation from the visiting Stony Brook Seawolves. Instead, Arizona State played a third consecutive tightly contested affair en route to a stunning 5-4 overtime victory.
The Sun Devils have used a string of late game heroics to steal victories of late, but few of their games have been as exciting as Saturday's come from behind win.
His players might be making him sweat out all 60 minutes, but Coach Greg Powers loves the Sun Devils' ability to win when their backs are up against the wall.
"The only thing we can take away from this is that we know we can win close games. That was a good hockey game, and that was a good team," Powers said.
Stony Brook limited Arizona State to just one goal during regulation on Friday night, and goalie Brendan Jones proved he was up to the challenge for the second night in a row.
Ryan Cotcamp opened the scoring for the Seawolves with a goal just over four minutes into Saturday's matchup, but goalie Joe D'Elia held strong the rest of the period.
After the goal, physically inclined Sun Devil defense set out to create a buffer zone between the Stony Brook forwards D'Elia in the first period and captain Colin Hekle led the charge.
The feisty forward laid the hammer on a few Seawolves early on in Saturday night's action and the game came to a standstill after the two teams scuffled around center ice midway through the first period.
When the dust cleared, Arizona State had the advantage of a five-minute power play but failed to capitalize and ended the first period trailing 1-0.
The Sun Devils' struggles continued throughout the second period as the offense lacked rhythm and flow and failed on two more power play opportunities.
With 16:18 left in the second period, Stony Brook forward Edwin Montgomery caught the Sun Devils napping in the offensive zone and broke away for a goal to give the Seawolves a 2-0 lead that would hold until the end of the period.
As the third period began, the Sun Devils finally looked like they would succumb to an opponent after three grueling days of competition. However, Coach Greg Powers' never-say-die bunch rediscovered their late magic to ignite a stunning comeback.
Entering the third period, a stagnant Arizona State offense came to life behind the strength of a Danny McAuliffe with 15:38 left to play. Less than 90 seconds later, Sun Devil defenseman Brian Parson tied the game at two and the Sun Devil team sprung to life.
The pesky Seawolves assumed control of the lead with 6:15 to play on a Daniel Cassano goal, but the Sun Devils answered right back when Brian McGinty scored a power play goal a minute later.
In an almost improbable manner, Stony Brook's Ryan Cotcamp beat Joe D'Elia with a crafty slapshot to help his team to a 4-3 lead. Not to be outdone, Brian McGinty tied the game for the Sun Devils for the third time in the period when he beat Brendan Jones with just 3:56 left to play.
McGinty credited the third period resurgence to the mentality that the playoffs are dawning and that the Sun Devils know they can't take anything for granted. "I think we're just starting to realize that we have to come out and play every game like it's our last. Every team that we play, we're going to get their best effort."
A flurry of goals in the final ten minutes led to the most exciting period of the season, but the weekend giveaway of free hockey continued as Arizona State couldn't muster a score on a power play chance in the final two-minutes of regulation.
After winning in shootouts in the first two games of the homestand, the Sun Devils decided they couldn't continue to play with fire.
Freshman forward Stephen Collins dove to block a possible game-winner from Stony Brook early in the overtime period, and junior Danny McAuliffe seized the day.
McAuliffe raced past the Seawolves defense and fired the puck right past Brendan Jones to give the Sun Devils a shocking overtime win.
After the game, an elated McAuliffe explained, "When it comes down to it, we find another gear and we turn it on...that's a good sign of a good team."
Despite the rough patches Arizona State encountered, the Sun Devils emerged from the weekend with three gritty wins that showed great resilience. Coach Powers might be losing his hair at a rate faster than expected, but his players are filling this season's roller coaster ride with an ever-growing number of emotional highs.